Lancaster University black and white building site

The Story So Far...

Bowland College under construction
Bowland College under construction

An Introduction to Bowland College

Founded in 1964, Bowland is the oldest of all the Colleges at Lancaster University. Named after the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding National Beauty which sits to the east of Lancaster, the Bowland Lady logo represents the personification of Bowland Forest and is taken from a map drawn by William Hole for the 1622 edition of a poem ‘Poly - Olbion’, or ‘A chorographical description of tracts, rivers, mountains, forests, and other parts of this renowned isle of Great Britain’ by Michael Drayton. For many years the smallest college, it has expanded in recent years to become the third largest of the undergraduate colleges, with only County and Lonsdale Colleges having more students. This popularity is due in part to the central location of college on the university campus and the wide range of accommodation available to students.

The History of Bowland College

Bowland was the name of the first of two colleges to be founded, alongside Lonsdale, in each case adopting names from places in the region, a policy agreed by the Senate. (Notwithstanding the bar sign, the name Trough of Bowland relates to a local beauty spot along the original route taken by the assize judges riding on horseback between Clitheroe and Lancaster Castle.) Staff and students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, were allocated to either one or the other college from October 1964, when the University took in its first students and began its teaching and research at St Leonard’s House in Lancaster. The first degree ceremonies in December 1965, at the Ashton Hall, were organised on collegiate lines.

The Academic Planning Board, which took responsibility for making recommendations to the University Grants Committee about the academic and governance shape of the new University, recommended in March 1963 that the University operate through a collegiate structure, and this was agreed. Charles Carter, the Vice-Chancellor Elect from April 1963, began drawing up plans for the colleges, and his Third Policy Memorandum of October that year envisaged study bedrooms, junior and senior common rooms, guest and staff flats, music and utility rooms, sports rooms, a sewing room and sick bay facilities. Earmarked study space was to be provided for all non-resident students.

The University’s Council agreed on 19 January 1965 both to confirm the establishment of the two colleges, as well as the appointment of John Bevington, Professor of Chemistry, as Bowland’s founding principal. By then work had already begun at Bailrigg on the formation of the Underpass, with Alexandra Square above, and to the north the outline of Bowland College and the first phase of the Physics Building quickly emerged. The study bedrooms were more generous in size than for later colleges, being 120 square feet, but without any en suite facilities. Bowland and Lonsdale were designed to be mirror images of each other, with shared refectory space (now the Welcome Centre) between them, and with a porters’ lodge that opened onto the north Spine. The architects were Shepheard, Epstein and Hunter, and the essence of their design was low-rise buildings, the use of brick, timber and white paint, and the deployment of trees, climbing plans and grass to soften the interior courtyards.

Bowland College was the only college to be wholly funded by the UGC, and was the first to receive its collegiate space, in October 1966. At first the study bedrooms were used as daytime study space for students based at St Leonard’s House, but by October 1968 students were able to move into residence and to set up formal JCR structures. In addition to the main college Bowland Tower, in the south-east corner of Alexandra Square and wrapped around the Boiler House chimney, was built in 1967-68 provided additional residential rooms with exceptional views over the surrounding countryside.

The second college principal was the long-serving Malcolm Willcock, Professor of Classics, and the first college bursar was Elizabeth Livingston, after whom a lecture theatre is named. Founding departments housed in the college, on ground and first floors, included English, Linguistics, Philosophy and Classics.

A particularly testing time for all the colleges came with their remodelling from 2000 onwards. The decision was taken to move Lonsdale College to Alexandra Park in 2004, where it remains, and for Bowland College to take over the whole of the Lonsdale College space, up to and including Bowland Hall (originally built as the first phase of the Graduate College). This move substantially enlarged the scale of the college’s residential accommodation for students which now extends from Bowland Halls on the northern edge of campus to Slaidburn House on the south side of Alexandra sqaure. More recent developments have included some of the college buidings being used for LUSU offices and for the Study Zone that fronts Alexandra Square. Some space for student and college activities within the college has been lost following these developments and the porters lodge no longer opens on to the north spine. Remnants of the 1963 plan remain in our well used study space for off-campus students and in our friendly and welcoming junior common room. There is no longer a senior common room, and, sadly, no sewing room.

‌Marion McClintock MBE, Honorary Archivist and Honorary Fellow, Lancaster University

Bowland Tower
Bowland Tower

Show your true colours with a piece of Bowland College Merchandise.